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June 01, 2012

Community volunteers to extend EMPIRE

Empire-players-1963-B-300x241One of the original role-playing games for computers gained a home on the HP 3000 during the era of text-based interactive gaming. Reed College in Portland hosted the first board-game version of Empire (at left), giving the game a Pacific Northwest home that would lead it to the HP 3000. In 1971 Empire first emerged from Unix systems, created by Peter Langsdon at Harvard. It resurfaced under the name Civilization on an HP 2000 minicomputer at Evergreen State College, where an HP 3000 would soon arrive.

Powered-by-e3000When that HP 2000 was retired, the source code to Civilization was lost -- but Ben Norton wrote a new version of the game for MPE, EMPIRE Classic, in 1984. Built in BASIC/3000, EMPIRE became the 3000's best-known game, in part because it was included in the 3000's Contributed Software Library.

EmpireWhile Civilization was having a graphical life on personal computers like the Amiga, EMPIRE on the 3000 is text-only, using prompts and replies designed to build eco­nomic and polit­i­cal entities, with mil­i­tary actions included. That's right, we mean present-day: the game remains in use today, nearly 30 years after it was first launched for MPE. Tracy Johnson, a volunteer with the OpenMPE advocacy group, sent along the story of how EMPIRE has gained a web address -- so now anyone in the world can join a multi-player game.

By Tracy Johnson

For about a dozen years in various incarnations, starting with an old HP 3000 922RX and later on a 957, IT management at my company Meaurement Specialties undertook a small, fun-time project: to enable some of the old Interex Contributed Software Library games written for the HP 3000 to run on the web. Notably, the game of Empire and a few others. The website needed something to hang its hat on, so the name EMPIRE was chosen to encompass everything at the site.

We also got in contact with one of the original contributors of Empire, Ben Norton, who started making enhancements to the game after 20 years.  Another programmer eventually picked up the mantle, and improvements to the game are still being made to this day.

Eventually, someone in upper management asked what our EMPIRE machine was being used for.

So all good things must come to an end, but it was arranged to port the game (and its website) over to the INVENT3K server.  By coming off an old 957 on MPE/iX 6.5 onto INVENT3K's four-processor 969 on MPE/iX 7.5, the move became a positive upgrade.  

The former host machine had no domain name. This made it rather difficult to promote the game, because any time you referenced website in an email -- http:// followed by an IP address -- all the heuristic spam blockers marked it as spam. Now it has a domain name, and you can put empire.openmpe.com into your Reflection, Minisoft, or QCTerm configuration.  Meaning of course I can now reference the website as http://empire.openmpe.com, and not get this the message treated as spam.

Porting the game and website was rather easy. The original site used Orbit+/iX disk to disk backups (courtesy of Orbit), and it was simply FTP'd to the new machine and then restored.  Additional assistance was provided by Keven Miller at 3kRanger to make the website fit in with the regular INVENT3K website. INVENT3K's website now has a button that links to EMPIRE. Both sites are hosted on the same machine where the games are running.

07:08 AM in History, Homesteading | Permalink

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